INVASIVE PLANTS—WHY THEY MIGHT BE IMPORTANT TO YOU
You have probably heard or read about the growing concern regarding invasive plants. Perhaps you’ve wondered how this problem affects you. The continued advancement of invasive species in New England not only affects the forest, but may have an effect on your physical health as well.
“Invasive plants, in my opinion, are probably my biggest concern when it comes to the proper management of forestland” states NEFCo forester Tony Lamberton. “The rapid spread of these invasives is phenomenal and over the long term will have a significant impact on how landowners will be able to manage their land” he adds.
While there are a number of invasive species to be concerned about, two species stand out as already being significant problems. They are Japanese Barberry and various species of Honeysuckle. Japanese Barberry was introduced in the United States as a landscape shrub in the 1860’s. Different cultivars have different size leaves and different color leaves. The red fruit persists well into the fall and winter months. Also, the plants respond very well to pruning, so this plant became a favorite of landscape designers.
Shrub honeysuckles reproduce mainly by seed but some vegetative re-sprouting can occur in established populations. Plants mature between 3-5 years of age. Each plant produces thousands of berries as fruit, and each fruit contains 2-6 seeds. Seeds can remain viable for 3-5 years.
Sharing the characteristics of many of the invasives, barberry and honeysuckle can leave the landscaped garden where it was planted and take over the surrounding forests. It only takes one plant to create a whole colony if it is left uncontrolled. Because of the competitive advantage of the barberry and honeysuckle, the forests eventually have no new seedling trees, no native shrubs, and no spring wild flowers.
There are other serious consequences beyond the lack of native vegetation and biodiversity. One threat is the decrease in leaf litter, the decaying leaves found on the ground in most forests. This litter is really a protective layer over the soil. Loss of this protection is resulting in erosion problems. In addition to forestry issues, field experience by NEFCo foresters indicates that invasives tend to be where we run into significantly higher tick problems. In fact, studies by groups like the University of Connecticut Extension System are proving that an area over taken by Japanese Barberry provides a perfect habitat for the deer tick. They also provide a perfect habitat for mice which are secondary hosts for deer ticks. These are the ticks that can carry Lyme disease.
One study showed that in an uncontrolled barberry area, there were approximately 120 ticks per acre. In an area where the barberry was being controlled, there were 30 ticks per acre. In an area with no barberry, there were only 10 ticks per acres. That’s a 92% decrease in the deer tick population.
There are several methods that can be used to eradicate invasive species. Whether you try cutting them back or burning them back, you must continually monitor the regrowth. Managing the tick population on your property is surely an ongoing process; however, you can task these duties to your NEFCo professional. If herbicide application is determined to be a part of the plan, this procedure is best left to a professional such as the licensed herbicide applicators on the NEFCo staff. Contact your NEFCo representative for more information.
TICK MANAGEMENT PROGRAM
NEFCo is pleased to announce the establishment of an Integrated Tick Management program designed to address the growing concern related to Lyme disease. The spread of Lyme disease and other illnesses associated with tick species in the northeastern US is a huge and ever growing concern. 30,000 cases of lyme disease are reported to the CDC every year and it continues to grow. Human contact with ticks carrying pathogens such as Borrelia burgdorferi, which is the cause of Lyme, is due to factors such as lifestyle, location of home, maintenance of landscape, habitat quality and desirability for vectors of Lyme and ticks, and climate.
New England Forestry Consultants can work with and help you develop an Integrated Tick Management (ITM) plan that will help you reduce the suitability of habitat for ticks and their hosts on your property and landscape. This plan can include all forms of control including biological, mechanical, and chemical, and will be tailored to your property. Because of this, it is pertinent that a site visit be conducted so that a NEFCo representative can get a better sense of a landowner’s individualized goals for managing their tick populations, as well as what ways would be best suited to go about controlling them.
Below are some common questions about tick control and how an ITM plan from NEFCo can help a concerned landowner protect their family from the threat of Lyme, Powassan, and the other diseases that a tick can transmit:
How do I know if I have ticks on my property?
Chances are; you do. There has been a dramatic increase of the Tick population in recent years. They now can be found in nearly every corner of New England. Higher elevations areas and especially dry sites may have lesser numbers of ticks, but they can be found in most areas in the northeastern US.
What is Lyme disease and what happens when it’s contracted?
Lyme disease is developed after contact with the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi. In most cases it takes between 24-36 hours to transmit the bacteria from the gut of the tick to the bloodstream of the host.
Part of the issue with Lyme is how it manifests itself in the human body. A classic first sign is the ‘bullseye rash’, or erythema migrans, which is seen, although that’s not a definitive sign as sometimes it doesn’t show up at all. There is an associated incubation period, during which the bacteria population grows inside the host’s body, but after that the symptoms are wide ranging and varying in severity. Some initially get a few aches and pains in joints, and some come down with severe fevers and flu-like symptoms. Untreated, the disease can spread and become worse, eventually causing chronic arthritis and other ailments that can persist indefinitely.
Do all ticks carry Borrelia burgdorferi?
No. But it’s estimated that as many as 85% of deer ticks carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease in humans. There is no way to tell if a tick carries the bacteria just from looking at it, and unfortunately current medical tests can prove to be somewhat inconclusive on the diagnosis of Lyme. This is why it is so important to treat the infestation and not wait until there is a bite to try to treat the tick problem.
Do I have to use chemicals to control my tick populations?
No, you do not necessarily have to use acaricides (tick pesticides) to kill ticks. Although tick pesticides are usually very effective when applied by a license applicator, there are understandable concerns that a property owner may have for using chemicals, and why a site visit is highly encouraged. A NEFCo professional can determine which control methods would work best for your particular property, and can work with you to develop an ITM plan that meets your needs, addresses any concerns you may have, and effectively manages the tick populations.
What is the next step?
An initial visit by a NEFCo representative. The visit will allow your professional to determine if an ITM plan is appropriate and what level of control is suitable for your property. While it is preferable to have you there, it is not mandatory and all necessary information can be gathered in your absence or over the phone.
At the present time the NEFCo ITM program is limited to Vermont and New York. However, in the not too distant future, the intent is to expand the program to cover other New England states; therefore, if your property is located in states other than Vermont and New York a phone call to the NEFCo ITM manager would be appropriate to start the process. The NEFCo ITM manager can be contacted at 802-235-1042.
TIMBER MARKET WATCH
The closure of pulp and paper mills in Maine is having a ripple effect throughout the region. In the last few months pulp and paper mills have closed in Lincoln, Old Town, and Madison, Maine. In addition, Verso Paper which has a paper mill in Jay, Maine has gone through Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings. They emerged from the proceedings after less than six months, but still face all the challenges their competitors are going through. The problems have been blamed on a lower demand for paper, and competition from paper manufacturers throughout the world. The closure of the Maine paper mills has impacts on log, pulpwood, and biomass chip markets. The most obvious impact is a reduction of the volume of pulpwood used in the region. Changes in the paper market have also shifted the demand toward more hardwood pulpwood being used to make the grades of paper that can be sold. The demand for spruce and fir pulpwood, which once was the most valuable pulpwood, has dropped to the point where it is difficult to even sell in any volume.
The change in pulpwood markets has impacted other forest products markets as well. Logging contractors who have the capability to produce biomass chips are chipping much of the softwood pulpwood just to move it off the landing. This has led in part to an excess supply of biomass chips at the plants that use that product. To exacerbate the problem, a number of biomass plants that generate electricity have closed as their supply contracts with regional electricity purchasers have expired. The new price offered for electricity from these plants is said to be below the cost of generation. The lower oil prices have made it more attractive to generate electricity using oil and natural gas than with biomass. Paper mills that have access to natural gas have been able to generate steam and electricity more cost effectively with natural gas than with biomass chips.
Softwood sawmills are not immune from the impact either. The demand for paper quality softwood chips produced as a byproduct in the milling process has dropped along with the demand for softwood pulpwood. In many cases the paper quality chips are being sold to biomass plants as they have to be moved to keep the sawmill running. This has a double impact. Sawmills are receiving lower prices for their chips and adding supply to a market that is already over supplied. The good news is that softwood lumber markets have been steady enough to keep softwood sawmills producing lumber despite the lower income from byproducts.
The long term impacts of the pulp and paper mill closures is still being determined. As with everything in the forest management realm, one change travels throughout the entire system over time. One positive note is that the paper mill in Rumford, Maine recently restarted an idled paper machine and hired back workers that had been laid off for months. Hopefully this will be a long term condition which will benefit the region. Stay tuned for more news as the markets continue to adjust.
Jordan Peters has joined Tony Lamberton at the Manchester Center regional office in southwestern Vermont. He started forestry in high school and in 2011,served as a summer forestry intern in Bingham Maine. Jordan holds a B.S. degree in Industrial Forest Operations from Paul Smith’s College. He holds Vermont Pesticide Licenses in categories 02 and 10. In his free time, Jordan enjoys running, biking, and spending time outdoors.